Ever wondered “How do I deal with someone at work who talks down to me?” Or, “How can I address behaviours that make me uncomfortable”. If the answer is yes, then this technique is for you – it’s called an “I” Statement.
I've coached countless individuals in a variety of industries for clients globally using this tool with outstanding success.
An “I” Statement is a practical method in managing interpersonal conflict. It focuses on addressing behavior an individual is demonstrating – not placing value judgements on the individual’s character, perceived intent or personality.
Here is an example of an “I” Statement: “When I'm provided with corrective feedback in front of my collogues by a manager – it makes me feel uncomfortable and demotivated. What I would prefer, is that all corrective feedback is provided in private and only focuses on my work product and behaviours – not my personality.” instead of, “You made me feel stupid when you talked down to me in in front of everyone in the team when you gave me feedback about the Jones account.”
ROLE OF “I” STATEMENTS IN COMMUNICATION
Thomas Gordon developed the concept of an “I” statement in the 1960s and contrasted these statements to “you” statements, which shift blame and attributions to the listener. “I” statements enable speakers to be assertive without making accusations, which can often make listeners feel defensive. An “I” statement can help a person become aware of problematic behavior and generally enables the speaker to take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings rather than attributing them - sometimes falsely or unfairly - to someone else.
When used correctly, “I” statements can help foster positive communicationand may help professional interactions become stronger, as sharing feelings and thoughts in an honest and practical manner can help colleagues collaborate more effectively.
“I” STATEMENTS IN PARTCICE
Organizational Development professionals commonly encourage people to use “I” statements when communicating with others. This technique is particularly common in inter and intra team communications, as individuals can often get trapped in a potentially vicious cycle of perpetual blame without ever addressing the underlying issues that may be leading to conflict. “I” statements can help individuals work through their disagreements in a way that allows them to express their opinions, feelings, and effects behaviours have on each other without assigning blame and placing further strain on the collaboration.
However, “I” statements can be misused when starting out – this is common. For example, an individual may say, “I hate it when you don't listen to me.”Although this statement does start with “I,” it might still be interpreted as accusatory and may not be the healthiest way to express cause and effect. A better “I” statement might be, “When I'm not listened to, I feel ignored and less motivated to express myself. What I would prefer is the opportunity to express my thoughts before I am interrupted.”
“I” statements are useful when they focus on the effects of an individual’s actions rather than on the action itself. When an action isn't singled out for blame, the receiver may be more receptive to hearing how their actions have affected others when the language used is not accusatory.
EXAMPLES OF “I” STATEMENTS
Many people don’t communicate naturally with “I” statements, and it often takes some practice before a person can use them well. That said, everyone can learn to use “I” messages – with some thoughtful practice. The “I” statement is made up of three parts:
Example:When I’m not given clear direction or context for the direction, it results in wasted time and unsatisfactory outcomes. What I would prefer is that I’m given clear direction and assistance when needed to complete required tasks.
1. American Psychological Association. (2009). APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
2. I-Statements. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://wizzley.com/i-statements/
3. I-Statements. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://innerspacetherapy.in/self-help-and-improvement/communication-you-i-statements/